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How do I open a text file in a terminal with instant auto-refresh every time it is changed?

I've looked at vim with :set autoread, but it requires some elementary input (such as a keypress inside vim) to trigger the refresh.

I want the auto-refresh to be hands-free. Is there some hack to do this?

I'm using Crunchbang 11, but I'm quite comfortable with the terminal.

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What is that good for? What is this file about? If it is a log, it usually has new lines added to the bottom, then you could just use tail -f $file. – Jiri Xichtkniha Nov 15 '13 at 13:48
Specifically, I am writing a Python script which writes out another text file, not just add new lines at the bottom. I'd like to monitor that text file. – Kit Nov 15 '13 at 13:52
inotify.......? – Jiri Xichtkniha Nov 15 '13 at 13:54
I'm not familiar with inotify. Looking it up, it's an API that I need to access with C programming, which I'm not inclined to do anytime soon. I'm looking for a shell command solution. – Kit Nov 15 '13 at 13:57
google -> py inotify "Pyinotify is a Python module for monitoring filesystems changes. Pyinotify relies on a Linux Kernel feature (merged in kernel 2.6.13) called inotify. inotify is an event-driven notifier, its notifications are exported from kernel space to user space through three system calls. pyinotify binds these system calls and provides an implementation on top of them offering a generic and abstract way to manipulate those functionalities." – Jiri Xichtkniha Nov 15 '13 at 14:32
up vote 6 down vote accepted

This should show you the file once per second:

watch -n 1 cat file
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This is what I'm looking for. Thanks! I extended it further with watch -tpcn 1 pygmentize -g filename – Kit Nov 15 '13 at 14:41
@Kit careful with watch -g, it doesn't work as you would expect. – terdon Nov 15 '13 at 14:44
@terdon, the -g switch is actually for pygmentize. Anyway, thanks for the warning. – Kit Nov 15 '13 at 15:08

I would use watch as the other answer suggests but just to show you how one can approach a seemingly complicated problem using the building blocks provided by a shell such as Unix; a while loop can be a simple way to perform your looping.

$ while [ 1 ]; do clear; date; cat <afile>; sleep 1 ;done


$ while [ 1 ]; do clear; date; cat sample.txt; sleep 1 ;done
Fri Nov 15 09:17:39 EST 2013

The screen clears and then after a second, this gets displayed:

Fri Nov 15 09:17:40 EST 2013
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As suggested in the comments, you could also use inotify though it is overkill. By far the simplest is to use watch. Here's one way to do it with inotify:

  1. Install the inotify-tools package

    sudo apt-get install inotify-tools
  2. Use inotifywatch to check your file for changes. Run it in a loop and cat the file if a change is detected (that's why I grep for the string total):

    while true; do 
      inotifywatch -e modify -t 1 kk 2>/dev/null | grep total && 
      echo "$(date;cat kk)"; 
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